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...a sweatshop of moxie

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


I love luxury.

By this I don't mean ostentatiousness, per se. I don't mean indulgence, per se. I don't even mean that which costs a fortune, per se.

No. I mean something quite specific, something which I feel deep within me, and moreover, have done since I was a very young child.

I remember going into my mother's room as a child -- being fascinated with gems all her life, my mother kept a small bowl full of precious gemstones near her bed.

Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, turquoises, amethysts, and many more besides. Beautiful sparkly things, shot with different colours deep within them.

So often I would find my way to her room when my parents were away, and I'd dip my little hands into the bowl, and feel the stones on my hands, as they cascaded through my fingers in a riot of colours.

I would do this for minutes and minutes on end, half-expectant of being caught, half-desiring not to have to share my secret thrill with anyone.

Years later, when I was watching Erich von Stroheim's Greed, I was struck mute when I saw the famous ZaSu Pitts' scene in which she rolls around in her bed, with stacks and stacks of money over her, like a lover.

It was an orgiastic feeling of delight for her, and I recognised something akin to what I felt in that one scene.

Only my feeling, I think, is not sexual, yet it is certainly sybaritic.

It is only a specific brand of luxury which prompts a physical reaction of well-being, though.

I once caught sight of the Sultan of Brunei and his entire family in an official photograph. I laughed and laughed, because their luxuriousness was such an overreach, such a tacky display of too bright whites, too vivid oranges, too shocking pinks, all juxtaposed beside each other without restraint, that it blinded one's eyes.

It was like they had tried to copy the Queen in State regalia, but it had all gone terribly terribly wrong.

It might have been luxurious, but it wasn't my brand of luxury.

I remember once a friend of mine, an American girl from the Heartland, raised without fuss despite having very rich parents (far outstripping mine in that regard), had asked for a glass of water.

So I gave her a glass of water, and as I opened the cabinet door, I turned around and found her agape at me.

"Don't you have a plastic cup?"

No, I didn't have a plastic cup.

Every glass I have is cut crystal. I eat off of porcelain china every day. I only eat with silverware, which has to be polished painstakingly every other day, and I could care less but for the pleasure it gives me.

And there is a reason for that.

Again, my memory takes me to my childhood. Those brief 9 or 10 years seem to mark one forever, don't they, far outstripping their actual importance in relation to your total age.

I recall being taken to visit a friend of my mother's -- a spinster lady in London, who despite being very well-to-do, lived as a pauper.

We would enter her cramped rooms, everything thrown about higgledy-piggledy, which even then I realised was the mark of an unimaginative person, and she would be bent over her Singer sewing machine, making her own alterations to her unfussy dresses, over a single naked light bulb over the table.

In summer, her rooms stifled your breathing. In winter, they were as cold as a stare.

Why didn't she heat her rooms?

I don't know, but I suspect it was obsessive thrift, and a Protestant dislike of pampering oneself.

(If you had told me it was martyrdom, that special brand of masochism, I might have agreed too)

I was not even 10, and I yet knew then that was a person I wanted to be as LEAST like as possible when I grew up.

Worse than that is my own father, who flinches visibly whenever he goes to any 5-star Hôtel like the Ritz or the Georges V in Paris.

"Do you like all this?"
"Yes, dad, I do."
"I don't. It makes me feel oppressed."

So as soon as I was able to, when I had my own quarters at University, I surrounded myself with the kind of luxury which was almost insulting to those unused to it. No one who entered my digs at college, left it without mentioning the effect they made on them.

My Lalique vases, my Baccarat decanters for single-malt whisky which would never reach my lips since I'm abstemious, my heavy brocaded chairs which I asked my grandmother to give to me for my birthday.

Why do I need this luxury around me, part of me, cloying to me?

I don't know.

Curiously, I am perfectly at home in modest surroundings when I visit my friends.

I eat off of paper plates with complete ease. I ride around their cars, some of which are nothing more than junkyard hoop-dees, and I don't blink an eye.

Then I come home, and slip between my pearly cold 1200-thread count Pratesi sheets, and I could die a happy person right then and there.

Perhaps I need this feeling, this feeling of well-being, satisfaction, and certainty that luxury brings to a dyspeptic life.

Nothing can make you more alive to your surroundings, more assured of their permanency, more aware of their purpose, than to be enveloped by luxury.

If you were to ask me in person, I would reply luxury is the only drug I have ever known.

And it's the most addictive of them all.


  • Excellent post, very enjoyable reading! However, I did have to look up sybaritic and dyspeptic. You are helping me expand my vocabulary!

    By Blogger Jose Aguirre, at Wed Sep 07, 10:22:00 am GMT-4  

  • Heh, I thought you sounded high maintenance ;-)

    By Blogger Kullrad, at Wed Sep 07, 11:41:00 am GMT-4  

  • "Every glass I have is cut crystal."

    Two words: lead poisoning. Ahh, the hazards of luxury.

    By Blogger JSU, at Wed Sep 07, 12:17:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Excellent post, very enjoyable reading!

    Thank you, Jose. Glad you popped back despite not being offered papa rellenas to read it. ;)

    However, I did have to look up sybaritic and dyspeptic. You are helping me expand my vocabulary!

    I get told that a lot, and old English instructor that I am, I like it. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Sep 07, 01:51:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Heh, I thought you sounded high maintenance ;-)

    Not so fast, my young Kullrad!

    Yes, it's true. I am high-maintenance in the long run, but God has seen to it that I can take care of my own high-maintenance, so any prospective lover, boyfriend, or husband of mine need not worry about forking out (too much).

    But as I once said on Youksef, I'd much rather have a single red rose given me on a first date, than a bedazzling bouquet of 25 roses handed me.

    Luxury, as evidenced by the Brunei Royal Family, is not about JUST quantity.

    It's about the quality of the quality. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Sep 07, 01:55:00 pm GMT-4  

  • "Every glass I have is cut crystal."

    Two words: lead poisoning. Ahh, the hazards of luxury.

    Oh my GOD. You sound my dad!

    Whenever I reach for a sugar cube to put into my tea, he reminds me the process of refining that white sugary cube is such, that those who ingest it, are also ingesting needless amounts of bleach and other chemicals not present in the rough-hewn brown sugar state.

    And it's brown sugar most poor people could afford around the world, in the beginning, despite wanting the fancy white stuff seen at the better tables.

    I told him, "You see? God takes care of his own."

    He just grunted and changed the topic.


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Wed Sep 07, 01:59:00 pm GMT-4  

  • "Oh my GOD. You sound my dad!"

    Ha. You won't be surprised to know I prefer raw sugar for taste & texture.

    By Blogger JSU, at Thu Sep 08, 07:14:00 am GMT-4  

  • I like brown eggs, and when I have American coffee in my drip coffee machine, I use brown filters not white ones which have been bleached.

    Brown sugar, ick. :)


    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Sep 09, 01:13:00 am GMT-4  

  • Top 10 linen makers: http://www.thestylegroup.com/top10_linen.htm

    Pratesi comes in at #3 fyi.

    Orgiastic but non-sexual? Tease. :)

    By Blogger Renato, at Fri Sep 09, 03:04:00 pm GMT-4  

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